Ministry of Massage: Sister Rosalind Passes Power of Touch Through Classes, Baseball

"Ministry of Massage: Sister Rosalind Passes Over Power of Touch Through Classes, Baseball." Forum, 13 August 2004, sec. A8 & A9.

Sister Rrosalind Gefre might reach 5 feet standing on her tiptoes, but she seemed a little taller Thursday night on the Mound at Newman Outdoor Field, throwing an opening pitch for the RedHawks series against the St. Paul Saints.

The 74-year-old launched a good pitch, but missed the outside corner, had a righty been at the plate.

But that probably wouldn't mean much to her.

"I don't understand the game," she said, "but I do the massages."

Sister Rosalind Gefre, a North Dakota native now living in St. Paul, delivers a ceremonial first pitch Thursday at Newman Outdoor Field prior to the RedHawks game against the St. Paul Saints.

Massage is the nun's ministry, and it has made her a well-known figure in St. Paul, especially at Midway Stadium, home of the Saints.

For 11 years, she's given massages to Saints fans.

"When I started out there, people wouldn't even take a massage for free," she said. "Now the game is over and we haven't massaged everybody."

The Strasburg, N.D., native, has been a pioneer in bringing massage to the mainstream.

In 1983, the St. Paul vice squad promptly shut down her first massage center.

It was an era when massage was linked to the sex industry, so she used the media attention to put the practice in a new light.

Joshua Krueger, director of stadium operations for the RedHawks, said the club has been trying to get Sister Rosalind to throw out the first pitch for a couple years.

"It's a name people know, from her school and her ministry," he said.

Students of the Sister Rosalind Gefre School of Massage in Fargo have been giving chair massages at RedHawks home games for three years.

The cost $1 per minute.

"We try to make the game as enjoyable and comfortable for the fans while they're here," Krueger said.

Sister Rosalind said she discovered massage's healing ability when she had one and it relieved her chronic chest pain.

She started doing massage at the YWCA in Fargo in the 1970s until her order, the Sisters of St. Joseph, transferred her to St. Paul.

After her massage center was put in the spotlight in 1983, calls started pouring in.

People wanted to attend her massage school.

At first, she told them there was no school. Then she started offering a few classes.

Now, there are five schools - four in Minnesota and the one in Fargo - that bear her name.

More than 10,000 people have attended her massage classes, and 2,000 have graduated.

The schools have brought in more than $3 million in revenues, which she says goes back into the nonprofit educational institute, to pay the 150 staff members, buy equipment and establish new sites.

The Fargo school and clinic opened in 1998.

"She's just a very sweet Christian lady that's just trying to follow Jesus' path and healing touch with people." said the Fargo school director, Deb Simonson. "She believes that by touching people you're going to heal them."

People are "skin-hungry and God-hungry," Sister Rosalind says. So nearly everyone she encounters gets a hug.

Before she sat down on the concourse to sign copies of her biography, "Hands That Touch, Hands That Heal" by Fargo-born Joan Holman, Sister Rosalind talked to a man getting a chair massage, laying her hand on his head.

"There are many people who've never been touched in a loving and caring way," she said. "I simply hug people to let them know they're important."

Reprinted with permission of the Forum.

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